Tuesday, March 09, 2010


When I was a child, at least three people smoked in the house I grew up in. One of them may have rolled his own, but the other two mostly smoked tailor-mades.

When my own children were small I worked for the local City Council at a time when smoking was allowed not only in the tea breaks but while people worked as well. Thus we had the boss sitting in his cubbyhole smoking; we had the young feller chain smoking; we had the two women smoking, one of them with some vile roll-yer-own stuff that threatened your health just with the smell of it. We had the old bloke smoking - he rolled his own too, and the smell of his ones vied strongly with those of the woman.

And then there were the two blokes in the next office, which was only partially disconnected from ours. They smoked. Fortunately it wasn't an entirely enclosed space, but I guess I came home reeking of smoke every day. Although at that time, because so many people still smoked, we probably didn't even notice it.

So far I haven't died from secondhand smoke.

Nowadays, people have to stand out in the cold smoking. Or in doorways. I noticed in the Guardian the other day that the English are thinking of even banning people smoking in doorways. No more lighting fixtures in the vestibules for the Poms!

When we were in England in 2007, the smoking ban had just come in (an MP got caught smoking with his head out of the train, claiming he was smoking outside!) We went into a riverside pub on one occasion, and the place so reeked of smoke we couldn't stay there. Decades of cigarette abuse had rendered the place almost impossible to make smell clean again. Of course NZ had been smoke-free for some time by then, so our nostrils had forgotten just how rancid old smoke is.

And talking of abuse, one of the Brits calls smoking in cars when children are travelling with the adult, 'child abuse'. Might that be just a little bit over the top? As is the idea that all cigarettes might be wrapped in plain brown paper packages to rid them of their distinctive advertising and visual appeal. Brown paper wrappers. Crikey.

For a brief period Hollywood succumbed to the disapproval of smoking, but not for long. Movie after movie these days has people smoking, and cigarette smoke floating through the air still makes a shot look particularly good. In fact, my suspicion is that proportionately more people smoke in movies than smoke in real life. Just as more people per head of cinematic population hop into bed at the drop of a hat (or anything else, if it comes to that) that would in real life. I think.

Photo by Hamed Masoumi
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